ELMIRA, Ore. (KMTR) -- Lasting fall sunshine and a record dry spell is making for a possible banner year for Oregon wineries as many local winemakers get ready to harvest grapes this week.
An Elmira-based winery, LaVelle Vineyards says that the weather is making for what could be its best harvest in nearly twenty years.
"You couldn't ask for anything better than this as a grape vine farmer, as a winemaker. This is just amazing for us,” says Matthew LaVelle, a co-owner of LaVelle Vineyards.
LaVelle is in charge of winemaking at the vineyard, which his parents started about eighteen years ago. The family says unlike the last two years the fruit this year has come through incredibly strong, thanks to the near record dry weather.
With virtually no rain in the last three months, LaVelle Vineyards has almost no weather-related grape losses. That has allowed winemakers to keep the fruit on the vine longer, which lets the sugar content peak to high levels. Virtually all of the sugar content in grapes onsets toward the last few weeks before picking.
Back in 2010 and 2011, many Oregon winemakers suffered with signficantly more rain and colder temperatures.
"All of the fruit is very ripe but the flavor maturity is there as well, so we're getting great fruit flavors and citrus flavors in our Pinot Gris. We're getting the typical strawberry and cherry flavors in our Pinot Noir and everything is just beautiful this year,” says Matthew LaVelle, winemaker at LaVelle Vineyards.
The Eugene-Springfield area has only seen about 0.21 inches of rain since July. Typically, two to three inches has fallen in the area by early October.
With a banner harvest expected, wineries should be able to produce a larger volume of wine as well.
"Smaller wineries are looking to be able to rebuild their inventory this year after having a couple of really down years, 2010 and 2011 being really cold, really low fruit sets. So we really need to rebuild our inventory this year, so we're going to be able to,” says LaVelle.
Another big bonus from the sun has been the business it's brought to the vineyards. LaVelle says more people have been coming out to the winery later in the season because of the lack of rain.
LaVelle estimates that white wines like Riesling and Pinot Gris should be available by next spring or summer. Pinot Noirs should be available by the end of next year, taking longer because they have to barrel age.